Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's Likely Among the Worst Stories Ever

“At age 77, Richard Ramsey is likely among the oldest people in the U.S. to undergo a sex change operation.”

It was awhile before I could read past the first sentence of that story. It wasn’t because I am a guy and most of us would shudder at the thought of cutting off our most prized body part. It wasn’t for any discomfort with the transgenders among us who choose to do so.

My problem was with the reporter who butchered his story with the lamest opening in history. Ramsey is “likely among” the oldest to have a sex change? Likely among? Likely AMONG?!

If Ramsey is NOT among the oldest ever, you don’t even have a story. No, actually, you have a HUGE story. A 77-year-old is among the youngest to get a sex change operation? "Stop the presses! Jonesy, get on this right away. Old folks having sex change - hey, maybe they're so old they don't even know it's happening to them. This could be a pulitzer!"

Of course Ramsey is among the oldest. Why not write, “Being in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI is likely among the leaders of the Catholic religion.” or “Large, brown and hairy, Smokey is likely among the species of animals who shit in the woods.”

I am the one who should really be ashamed. I read a story from AOL news. I’m sorry. It just popped up when I opened my im.

When I saw the link to the REAL story, I clicked over. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported “Ramsey, … is likely the oldest person in the United States to have surgery to change genders, experts say.” AOL added the word “among”.

I often criticize news stories that appear to have gone in without editing. In this case, AOL News (I know, not a real news agency) actually did edit the story ... to the point of stupidity and beyond. To be “among” the oldest, all that is necessary is to be over the median age. If half the people who have a sex change operation are under 30 and half are older, Ramsey is among the oldest – the word “likely” becomes totally superfluous.

I imagined the conversation that went on in the AOL story meeting resulting in slicing the relevance from the lead sentence and inserting “among”:

EDITOR: Geez, Johnson – your story here ... I gotta cross my legs and hold my hands in front of my pants when I read it.

JOHNSON: Freaky, huh?

EDITOR: Gripping. Really. I got one problem, though. How do we know this guy – girl – whatever - is the oldest guy to have his noodle whacked?

JOHNSON: That’s what the Philly Inquirer said: he’s likely the oldest, according to experts.

EDITOR: Likely. Yeah, how do we know how expert these guys are? We can’t just repeat that if we’re not sure. We got the integrity of AOL News to uphold.

JOHNSON: You want me to look up how many old geezers had a plumbing job?

EDITOR: We don’t have budget for that. I’m just saying, I mean, I read somewhere about a guy who cut off his own thing when he was 99. Abram, or Abraham or something. Then he did his own son. Sickest thing I ever heard about. Can’t remember where I read it.

JOHNSON: Huh. Well ... you wanna kill the story?

EDITOR: No, it’s got a great hook. That lead is gonna make guys shudder and then click on the story. Let’s do this: Let’s say this transgentile guy is “among” the oldest to ever unlink the sausage.

JOHNSON: “Among”?

EDITOR: You know, part of the group. There could be older guys, but he’s up there. Like saying Eli Manning is among the top rated quarterbacks. It isn’t too precise. You don’t have to know – and you can’t get in trouble when the Giants lose 4 in a row.

JOHNSON: Perfect. I don’t know how you do it, boss.

EDITOR: It’s why I make the big bucks. Let’s knock off for lunch. I got a craving for hot dogs.


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